Tutorial: Folding Fabric

Mal | Home,Media,Organizing,Sewing | Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Fabric progress

Several people have asked about the techniques we used when cleaning out my mom’s fabric stash last week. There are of course many ways to purge, sort, and organize fabric, which I’ll write about later. But first, I wanted to address questions about the folding station and the folding method we used.

Studio Corner Sneak Peek

It’s the same method I’ve been using as I’ve been sorting and organizing fabric in my own apartment. Here you see an in-progress picture of my new studio corner with stacks of uniformly-folded fabric. This is a method I first read about from Monica, the Happy Zombie and later from Marilyn Bohn’s video.

Tutorial: fabric folding

Of course there are other ways, but this is the cheap, easy, quick one that works for me. The goal is to end up with a stack of fabric that is uniformly folded — the same length and width.

Tutorial: fabric folding

The height of each folded piece varies according to how much yardage you have to begin with.

Tutorial: fabric folding

To accomplish this, you’ll need a stack of fabric (45″ wide works best, though other widths can be accommodated), a flat surface, and a large quilter’s ruler. My mom had three 6.5″-wide rulers, so we defaulted to using those for her project. However, the cubbies on my shelf are 13″ wide. In order to comfortably fit 2 stacks of fabric side-to-side, I needed to use a slightly smaller ruler. Mine is 6″ wide and 24″ long.

Tutorial: Fabric Folding 1

I don’t currently have any fabric that hasn’t been folded by this method, so I had to un-fold a piece to show you how it’s done. Pardon the creases!

First, ensure that the fabric is folded in half lengthwise (selvedge-to-selvedge) with the wrong sides together. Many fabrics (including most quilter’s cotton) are approximately 45″ wide, which leaves you with a span of fabric around 22″ after it’s folded in half. For my ruler of 24″, this is just perfect. It leaves a little bit of ruler poking out on either end.

Tutorial: fabric folding 2

Begin “wrapping” the fabric around the ruler, starting with the raw edge nearest to you. It’s almost like you’re making a small “bolt” of fabric with the quilter’s ruler where the cardboard core would be.

Tutorial: fabric folding

Continue wrapping (flipping the ruler away from you) until you reach the other raw edge of the fabric. At this point, you have two options.

Tutorial: fabric folding

If the remaining edge is wide enough, you can just fold it over. However, if that edge piece is too small and won’t lie flat, there is another option.

Tutorial: fabric folding

If the last wrapped edge is too small to lie flat, unfold the bolt of fabric and tuck the edge under. Then, flip the bolt on top of the fold and it will seal the edge up into the wraps of fabric.

Tutorial: fabric folding

Pull the ruler out from the center of the fabric. Make sure that it lies flat and the raw edge doesn’t pop out.

 Tutorial: fabric folding

Fold the fabric in half cross-wise. (Hamburger fold, not hotdog.)

Tutorial: fabric folding

Place your folded fabric on the shelf with the folded edge facing you. that way, you can see at a glance what colors of fabric you’ve got.

Tutorial: fabric folding

You can see that the finished piece is a little larger than 6″ wide, and about 11″ long. This will vary depending on your ruler, so make sure you understand your shelves or storage spaces before you have to unfold your whole collection!

Tutorial: fabric folding

A lot of people store their fat quarters separate from the rest of their fabric collection. My mom wanted hers kept separate, so we did what Monica Zombie suggested and folded the fat quarters in the same way but with a smaller ruler. I prefer to keep my fabric all together, since I’m generally hunting for fabric of a certain color, rather than of a certain size.

A fat quarter is generally around 18″ x 22″. Using my 6″ ruler allows me to make a tidy little bolt and store all of my fabric in one place.

Tutorial: fabric folding

Fold one edge in…

Tutorial: fabric folding

Then the other.

Tutorial: fabric folding

Just as before, remove the ruler and fold in half.

Voila! If you’re starting with 60″ fabric, vintage sheets, or other odd-sized pieces, the procedure is the same. All you have to do is fold it lengthwise (hotdog, not hamburger) to approximately 20-24″ wide before you begin wrapping. For a 60″ piece, I generally just fold it in thirds lengthwise and it pretty much evens out in the end.

Be aware that extra yardage (3+ yards) will yield pieces that are noticeably wider due to the sheer bulk of fabric as you wrap around and around. You may need to take this into account as you plan out the size of your storage system.

A final thought: This sytem really only works if you are dedicated to maintainence. I’ll post later about my system for re-folding pieces after I have used them. However, I find that the investment of time really pays off.

This method is becoming increasingly popular, but hopefully my tutorial will add something to the conversation. Let me know if you try it out!

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